Treasure in My Yard
I remember the story of two roofers from Massachusetts who said they found buried treasure in a friend’s backyard while digging up a tree. Many people joined in celebrating their good fortune and wondered if treasure might be in their yards. It tuned out that the $100,000 find had been stolen from the rafters of a barn the men had been repairing. The whole tale was just too good to be true. How many of us have dreamed of finding treasure? I have. After all, that fantasy fuels the whole metal detector industry. Occasionally someone, like Greg Losh from Indiana, does hit it big. A local oil company contacted him after discovering oil in the area. Sure enough, his ten acre property sat on top of an oil well that is now producing three barrels a day.
A few days ago the photo-capture urge drove me to our yard. Understand that practically every plant, visiting butterfly, and bird has already posed for me. Therefore, the quest becomes more difficult with time. This morning, however, I discovered blooms on our variegated ginger plants. We planted them last year after digging up an aging hedge and replacing it with a variety of tropicals. The lovely buds and flowers surprised me. I had no idea the plants even bloomed.
A bit of research led to identification of the plant, Alpinia zerumbet or shell ginger, and a plethora of information about its medicinal uses. Native to China, Japan, India, Malaysia, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam the plant was hybridized in 1810 and named after 16th century botanist Prospero Alpinio. Every part of this showy plant is edible. Not only that, but it’s a potent antioxidant related to turmeric. In the Atlantic Forest region of northeastern Brazil, natives use colonia (shell ginger) leaves to combat hypertension and intestinal diseases. The flowers, leaves, and root syrup serve as cough medicine. To relieve headaches, Brazilians apply lightly heated leaves to the forehead to relieve headaches. In Asian countries, essential oils distilled from the leaves of shell ginger fight a variety of ills. Cooks in southern China tie zongzi, a traditional food made of glutinous rice stuffed with meat, in shell ginger leaves. Okinawans wrap food in the leaves because of its germicidal qualities. They also use it to make an herbal tea. Japanese ladies use a toner made from the leaves that help to maintain the skin’s moisture, prevent acne, and as an anti-aging preparation.
So, you see—I truly found treasure in my yard! Please understand that I’m not going to start distilling any oil, or other liquid for that matter. I do plan, however, to try some shell ginger tea, a recipe for zongzi, and perhaps even the headache cure. Who knows what other discoveries await me, or you—right in your own yard?